Guild to present ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’

Photo by Brian Townsend

Photo by Brian Townsend

The Players Guild of Dearborn presents the Tony award-winning musical comedy “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” for four weekends Nov. 12 through Dec. 5. The cast includes Kenneth Gibson (left) of Detroit as Mitch Mahoney, the “comfort counselor;” Julienne Kobylasz of Flat Rock as Olive Ostrovsky; Jeff Ostrowski of Dearborn as William Barfee; Sarah Mayne of Redford as Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre; Eric Floetke of Brownstown as Chip Tolentino; Christina Brown of Farmington as Marcy Park; Michael Bollman of Dearborn as Leaf Coneybear; Leah Cooley of Taylor as spelling bee moderator Rona Lisa Peretti and Kenyada Davis of Detroit as Vice Principal Douglas Panch. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees. For more information, call (313) 561-TKTS or go to

By Sue Suchyta
The Tony-award winning Broadway musical comedy “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will open at the Players Guild of Dearborn Nov. 12 for a four-weekend run.

The play follows six young spellers in the throes of puberty and the supervising adults who barely managed to escape adolescence themselves. They discover that winning isn’t everything, and that losing doesn’t make you a loser.

It also shows the super-achievers how they can stand out and fit in at the same time.

The show was conceived by Rebecca Feldman, with music and lyrics by William Finn, a book by Rachel Sheinkin and additional material by Jay Reiss.

Dianne Bernick of Dearborn is directing the show, which features the musical director of Steve Woznicki of Royal Oak and the choreography of Dearborn resident Jennifer McPherson. James Mayne and Ron Williams of Redford are co-producing the show.

Both the adults and “children” (intentionally played by adults) bring their own back stories to the spelling bee.

Rona Lisa Peretti, played by Leah Cooley of Taylor, is a former Putnam County Spelling Bee Champion and the current moderator.

Kenyada Davis of Detroit is Vice Principal Douglas Panch, the official word reader, who doesn’t want to be at the bee but who has a crush on Peretti.

Kenneth Gibson of Detroit is Mitch Mahoney, the intimidating “comfort counselor,” an ex-con who is fulfilling his court-mandated community service.

The spellers include three girls and three boys, intentionally and hilariously played by adult actors.

Julienne Kobylasz of Flat Rock plays Olive Ostrovsky, the only child of an absentee mother and a workaholic father. She finds solace in the dictionary, and arrives at the bee on her own by bus.

Jeff Ostrowski of Dearborn portrays William Barfee, who uses his “magic foot” to physically trace the spelling of words on the floor. He was a runner-up the previous year but was tripped up by his peanut allergy. He tries in vain to get his name pronounced “Bar-FEY” instead of the embarrassing sounding “BARF-ee.”

Sarah Mayne of Redford plays lisping Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre, the youngest and most politically aware speller. She has two overbearing gay fathers, whom she worries about pleasing.

Eric Floetke of Brownstown is Chip Tolentino, a Boy Scout and the previous year’s spelling bee winner. He hopes to defend his title, but finds himself distracted by raging pubescent hormones.

Christina Brown of Farmington plays Marcy Park, a stereotypical overachieving Asian who “speaks six languages,” plays multiple sports and musical instruments and is “not allowed to cry.” She has developed a unique relationship with God at her parochial school, “Our Lady of Intermittent Sorrows.”

Michael Bollman of Dearborn portrays Leaf Coneybear, a home-schooled child of former hippies who makes his own clothes and is easily distracted. He is frequently reminded by his siblings that he is “not that smart.” He is at the spelling bee by default because the winner and runner-up from his qualifying bee had to attend the runner-up’s Bat Mizpah.

Performances are Nov. 12 to 14, 19 to 21, 26 to 28 and Dec. 3 to 5, with 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows and 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees. The show contains adult language and situations, and is not recommended for children age 14 and under.

The show is designed to run without intermission and is under two hours in length.

The Guild theater is at 21730 Madison, south of the intersection of Monroe and Outer Drive in Dearborn. The theater is handicap accessible.

Tickets are $18, with a $2 discount for students with identification. Group discounts are also available.

For more information, call the Guild’s ticket line at (313) 561-TKT, or go to

Wayne State University’s Studio Theatre, which is undergoing a massive, donor-endowed renovation, launched its season Thursday with Marsha Norman’s “Getting Out” in the Maggie Allesee Studio on the third floor of nearby Old Main, 480 W. Hancock, Suite 3317.

Ironically the temporarily relocated Studio Theatre opens its season with a show mirroring the theme of interruption.

“Getting Out” is the story of a recently paroled young woman who is unprepared for life on the outside and is trying to find a way to reclaim her life with multiple strikes already against her.

Arlene returns to a run-down apartment after serving an eight-year sentence for robbery, kidnapping and attempted murder. Through flashbacks, the disruptive influences of her past, as well as her former self, come back to haunt her, highlighting the challenges she faces while re-creating herself.

The show is directed by Michael Butterworth, a second-year doctorate candidate, who describes the play as “realistic, with unrealistic components.”

The main character is played by two actresses. Laura Heikkinen of Livonia portrays Arlene, the woman recently released from prison. Ashley Shamoon of Northville portrays Arlie, Arlene’s past self.

“Ultimately the play presents the question, ‘Can we make peace with the past, especially when the past haunts us every day?’” Butterworth said.

Others in the cast include Wendy Paquette of LaSalle as Mother, Robert Hammond of Troy as Carl, Joe Hamid of Dearborn as Bennie and Jacqueline Fenton of Allen Park as the warden.

Indigo Colbert of Detroit plays Ruby, John Denyer of Dearborn portrays Caldwell, Stuart Sturton of Harper Woods performs the roles of Evans and Ronnie and Therese White of Detroit plays the doctor and the principal.

“Getting Out” will be performed for one more weekend, Thursday through Saturday.

Ticket prices range from $10 to $12. Discounts are available to all students, senior citizens aged 62 and up, and WSU faculty, staff and alumni association members.

For tickets and more information call (313) 577-2972, go to or go to the WSU box office at 4743 Cass.